We all like to eat. If you don’t you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog. BUT. Not everyone is cognoscente of how to find the best eats anywhere in the world, and on a budget. Well, being that #wandering into these hidden delicious gems is my specialty, I’m going to let you in on some of my secrets. Or my checklist, really. This recipe (pun intended) to find the best eats has proven me success almost every time, in any given city, from NYC to Madrid. No prior research or Trip Advisor recommendations needed. Just check out my recommendations and food page if ya’ don’t believe me.
So here goes. 10 Steps.
1) First question to ask yo’ self. What are you looking for: Food, drinks, or both? If you are primarily looking to chow down on some scrumptious food, avoid restaurants that put a big emphasis on their drink menu. I’ve noticed that when a place focuses on advertising their drinks, they are detracting attention from their not-so-high quality food. If you are looking for drinks or a mix of both, that’s a different story.
2) Start your search by asking locals on the street. Locals know best. Yes, often times even better than your all-knowing smart phones. BUT. It’s important to ask the right locals. A 50-year-old-man is going to recommend a different place than a 25-year-old woman. So pick the locals that look like YOU! Chances are, they will like what you like. Another key: Don’t always go with the first person you ask. If your not starving/ going to fall to the floor in any given second, get a poll from a couple of locals. If more than one tells you the same place…DING DING DING! You found your winner.3) Cross reference with your smart phone. DO NOT use it as your main source. So your local of choice just gave you a couple of recommendations. If you are the kind of person that uses Yelp or Trip Advisor as your bible, use it. Look up the names of your local’s recommendations, and make an educated decision from there. But don’t use it as your starting point. Chances are, it will have you walking on a hungry goose chase around a city you don’t know that well, when there’s most likely better options closer by. Also, smart phones love tourist restaurants. Be aware. App’s can be a wonderful source. But use them in a “smart” way.
4) Ok. PSA Time: STEP AWAY FROM THE TOURIST STREETS. Don’t fall into the trap. You know exactly what I’m talkin’ about; these restaurants are either located in the center of the city, next to some famous buildings with some sweet architecture, or on that well-lit street with the fancy-shmancy shops we can’t afford. Don’t be that guy (or girl) to blindly stumble into the centrally located restaurant with pretty menus, high prices, small portions, and mediocre food. I know, you are hungry and want immediate satisfaction, and a chair. And it’s right there. Location, location, location. But don’t do it. Just don’t. Ask yourself this: Would you rather walk one block away from touristland and find a great local spot with authentic food, cheap prices and larger portions? OR. Would you rather sit down right now, get some arrrright food, and be unsatisfied when your still-hungry stomach receives the “I owe HOW MUCH” check? You decide.
5) Crowds, crowds, crowds. Is the place busy? That’s always a good sign.
6) Now, check out the crowds…locals or tourists? Or both? Grandparents on their wild night out, posh 30 somethings, or big groups of young people? The clientele of a restaurant tells all.
Green Flags: Big groups of 20-30 somethings (a big group means that they all had to agree on one place!), lots of locals, OR a mix of locals and tourists. When there is a mix, that’s a great sign. That shows it appeals to all tastes, close and afar.
Red Flags: Lots of couples on romantic dates, families dining with multiple wild children, grandmas and grandpas, OR…all tourists.
7) Check out the menu before. If it’s not posted outside, walk inside and ask to take a peaky-peak at one. Don’t feel annoying to ask. They’ll be happy to give it you! You mean to them a potential customer. And if you don’t like what you see, don’t “feel bad” if you decide to walk out. Trust me, they’ll forget about you in 2 minutes (nothing personal, I’m sure you’re great).
8) Scope out the food that’s being served. Whether it’s a plate that the waiter is carrying, or food that’s already on the table. Nothing gives you a better idea of the food than the food itself. Feeling creepy? You might be. Try and be sly about it.
9) Observe the people sitting. Do the customers seem happy? Are they finishing what’s on their plate? Are they eating and drinking, or just drinking? If the majority is only drinking, you might want to go elsewhere for food. Oh, and if you felt creepy before, you will feel more creepy now. So be even more sly….